Talent marketplaces: the complete guide 

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08 March 2023

Unlock the skills in your organisation.
Learn how to with Mercer’s guide to talent marketplaces.

Talent marketplaces are emerging as an exciting and powerful new tool for HR teams, unlocking the skills in an organisation and allowing leaders to rapidly deploy the right people to the work that suits them best.

In this article we will be discussing: 

  • What a talent marketplace is
  • The key benefits of a talent marketplace
  • Employee benefits of a talent marketplace system
  • What's the ideal company size for a talent marketplace?
  • The role does technology plays in a talent marketplace
  • Steps in implementing a talent marketplace

Mercer research shows executives cite skills and capabilities as the number one obstacle to delivering truly transformative change — and a talent marketplace has the potential to solve this problem.

Talent marketplaces use AI and big data to provide leaders with a broad view of the skills available across a workforce and then automatically match people with work that makes the best use of those skills.

They are becoming a critical piece of HR architecture. Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends study found moving to skills-based talent practices is HR’s top priority — with 37 per cent of companies already using AI to identify skills.

Anne Le Blanc, a senior principal at Mercer Workforce Solutions, answers the top questions we’re hearing about talent marketplaces.

What is a talent marketplace?

At its core, a talent marketplace is a software system that matches people with jobs and projects.

Of course, the software is just the start – fully realising the potential requires a cultural shift that spreads through every part of the organisation and enables a whole new way of thinking about talent.

 But in simple terms, employees and contractors upload details of their education, skills and work history to the system while managers add information about available projects and jobs.

An artificial intelligence layer analyses the data, collects further information from internal and external sources and then matches the right people to each project.

 “The simple premise is it lets people put their hand up for work outside their core role — it opens up the capacity of the workforce,” says Le Blanc.

“But it is so much more than that — for employees, it helps them really see what their skills are and how they can develop those skills.”

 “And for the organisation, not only does it unlock hidden skills and capacity so you can get more work done, but it also helps you understand where there are concentrations of skills and where skills are lacking.”

“It helps you better deploy your recruitment resources and spend your learning and development budgets more wisely.”

A talent marketplace is a digital talent platform driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and implemented internally by HR and talent management departments.

The purpose of the talent marketplace is to match talent to opportunities based on skills, interests, and preferences. The key benefits of a talent marketplace are cross-organisation capacity management, workforce agility, democratisation of employee development, talent retention, employee lifecycle management.

Potential gains for employees who adopt the internal talent marketplace:

  • Internal mobility and new career paths
  • Access to new experiences
  • Opportunities to work with different people and teams
  • Chance for advancement or reinventing their careers
  • Learning and professional development
  • Job satisfaction and better employee experiences
  • Developing skills for the future

What are the benefits of a talent marketplace for organisations?

Le Blanc lists five benefits of implementing a talent marketplace in your organisation:

  • Unlock skills and capacity/better manage skills shortages
  • Quantify skills
  • Drive cultural change
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Talent retention and engagement

How can I know if a talent marketplace is right for my organisation?

Le Blanc says assessing whether your organisation is suited to a talent marketplace approach comes down to a few key judgements.

  • Here are some questions to ask to see if you might benefit:
  • Do you sometimes struggle to find the rights skills and talent for the work you need done?
  • Are you using more consultants, freelancers and contractors than you would like?
  • Are you seeing higher-than-desired attrition?
  • Are you undergoing a transformation and want to refocus the organisation’s strategy?
  • Do you want a better handle on the skills available in your workforce and whether they are appropriately deployed?
  • Are your learning and development programs not properly aligned with your strategic agenda?
  • Do you need to better manage people 'at risk' to find new opportunities?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, a talent marketplace approach may help.

What's the ideal company size for a talent marketplace?

Le Blanc also addresses the question of workforce size, saying most of the technology providers suggest that a minimum of 2,000 employees is needed to really get the most out of the system.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t work if you’re below that level — but it does mean you should dig a bit deeper to be sure and zero in on your use cases.”

What role does technology play in a talent marketplace?

Le Blanc says AI and big data technology are an essential part of a successful talent marketplace, but they must be accompanied by cultural change.

Many of the core benefits of talent marketplaces cannot be achieved without technology.

AI systems do the heavy lifting of examining employee’s work history and experiences and auto-populate skills maps. The software matches skills and availability to job- and project-requests and propose shortlists of suitable candidates. The talent marketplace systems can also integrate with learning and hiring systems to highlight where training is needed.

 There are a few different providers of the underlying systems that enable a talent marketplace, and each has different strengths. Selecting a provider that suits your business is an important step in the implementation process.

What are the steps in implementing a talent marketplace?

Le Blanc says there are five steps to implementing a talent marketplace at your business — and contrary to popular opinion, only one of them involves the IT department.

“So often we hear people starting at technology and thinking this is a tech project — it’s not,” says Le Blanc.

“It’s a cultural change project — it’s about changing the way people interact to bring about an opportunity to think about their careers differently.”

Talent marketplaces not only unlocks hidden skills and capacity; it also helps you understand where there are concentrations of skills and where skills are lacking.
 Anne Le Blanc

Senior Principal, Mercer Workforce Solutions

The five steps to implement a talent marketplace

  • 1 Prepare the business case

    Why does your organisation need a talent marketplace? How will it benefit? How do managers envisage it working? What’s your readiness for change? What’s the business case?

    “You need to build the case for change by really understanding what’s in it for the business and how you will create value,” says Le Blanc.

  • 2 Prepare HR

    Sometimes overlooked, not all human resources employees will understand the impacts across multiple portfolios that are required for a talent marketplace, and it is important they are prepared for change, says Le Blanc.

     “A talent marketplace has impacts across the HR ecosystems,” she says.

  • 3 Engage the organisation

    This stream is about engaging the organisation through communication — focus groups, user testing, stories and showcases.

    “How do you get your employees and management buying in to this new way of working and ready for adoption?” says Le Blanc.

  • 4 Implementation

    Implementation is the process of physically putting the technology into the organisation. But it’s more than just selecting a vendor — this phase is about project planning, steering committees, governance and change management, training and communication.

    “The implementation layer is massive, but it’s just one layer,” says Le Blanc.

  • 5 Optimise

    Finally, the steady state operation of the new system needs to be planned. This phase is ensuring benefits are captured and played back to the organisation.

    “How do you grow in maturity and capability, embedding adoption of the system across the organisation and nailing the cultural change,” says Le Blanc.

How can I get started onboarding a talent marketplace system?

Everyone has a different starting point when it comes to talent marketplaces.

Based on the five steps above, there are different options for how an organisation might get started, depending on their maturity.

Mercer’s framework can help you figure out which option is right for you – and whatever stage you are at, Mercer’s recent webinar exploring skills-based organisations can provide guidance on how to proceed.

Implementing a talent marketplace requires a mindset shift for your whole organisation. It may require changes to rewards, benefits, career pathing and succession planning.

And a final word from Le Blanc: don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is just a system implementation. When done right, supported with change management and coaching, the internal talent marketplace can deliver a broad range of benefits for talent acquisition, development, engagement and retention just to name a few. This is more than technology, it’s a cultural revolution.

To learn more, watch the webinar Are you ready for the skills economy? or get in touch to speak with a Mercer talent specialist.

About the author(s)
Anne Le Blanc
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